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Lost Horizon

Frank Capra's 1937 Lost Horizon makes for a fascinating DVD, one of the best yet to come from Columbia TriStar, but it's hard to lavish as much praise on the film itself. Capra was always a controversial director who often traded substance for sentiment, and Lost Horizon is a flawed gem. Based on the novel by James Hilton, the plot concerns five westerners who flee from an Asian revolt. After their plane crashes in the Himalayas, they are rescued by a group of locals, who take them to their society — Shangri-La, a fertile valley enclosed by mountains on all sides, where there is no crime, no illness, and seemingly eternal life for all who remain. The various characters react to the Utopian paradise in different ways, but after the exciting introduction, the narrative thread becomes very inconsistent, and at times a bit dull. Lost Horizon is a gorgeous thing to behold, but taken as a whole it's inferior to many excellent films that Capra made for a lot less money, such as It Happened One Night and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Instead, spin this one for the outstanding features, all concerning the intricate restoration of Lost Horizon, including a commentary track with film critic Charles Champlin and film preservationist Robert Gitt; a short documentary on the restoration process, which includes several deleted scenes along with an alternate ending; a behind-the-scenes photo-essay narrated by film historian Kendall Miller; and the original teaser trailer.

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